[FoME] Publication: Media & Freedom of Expression in the Middle East

Christoph Dietz Christoph.Dietz at CAMECO.ORG
Mo Jan 14 12:10:28 CET 2013

Walking a tightrope: news media & freedom of expression in the Middle
By Layla Al-Zubaidi, Susanne Fischer and Magda Abu-Fadil
Beirut: Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2nd rev. ed. 2012, 161 p.

>From the foreword:

Part 1 explores the historical development of the media in the region,
outlines their structural environment, and probes practices of
censorship and self-censorship.

Part 2 looks into those developments of the past decades that have
affected the monopoly on information by states and the access to
information on the part of the public.

Part 3 critically examines the function of guidelines for good
journalistic practices in the region, and provides some samples of codes
of ethics.

Part 4 presents an overview of the recent situation of the media and
freedom of expression in the region and provides some historical
background. In general, this part seeks to survey the existing media,
including the press, radio and television, the Internet, as well as
media legislation in the individual countries. Due to specific local
circumstances, some of the country sections are however structured in a
slightly different manner.

Part 5 compiles select training opportunities for journalists, as well
as organizations and projects that are committed to networking,
monitoring, advocacy and legal aid.

There is an ongoing debate on how far the Arab media have been, and
will be, able to contribute to social and political change. The Arab
"media revolution" has indeed transformed the sector, but has not
necessarily diminished efforts to control these new channels of
communication. A number of taboo topics continue to inflame the social
and political arena. Media landscapes across different countries remain
fairly uneven, as do political circumstances and social, economic, and
intellectual environments. Yet, there are structural commonalities in
the limits to freedom of expression, which deserve closer attention
because they reflect the broader issue of rights and constraints in the

Although transnational media have rapidly expanded, Arab governments
have not adequately responded to the quest for freedom of expression.
They have recognized the threat as well as the financial potential of
such media, often resulting in an ambivalent attitude and contradictory
policies of restricting media, while opening new spaces of freedom. The
current media sector embodies many of the paradoxes prevalent in the

In the following overview, an update of a report originally published
in 2004, the Heinrich Böll Foundation seeks to contribute to a better
understanding of the "status quo": 

This report reviews the situation in which media operate in the Middle
East, specifically in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and this
time also including a short section on Tunisia, where the first spark of
the uprisings began. It draws from a survey of written sources,
including literature, press articles, online resources and reports of
civil society organizations, as well as some interviews. No attempts
have been made to verify the information contained in the secondary data
sources. The authors did not intend to present a scientific study, but
to provide introductory information on Arab media (print, radio,
television, and the Internet) to activists, researchers, civil society
organizations, donors, or individuals interested to engage in the

Christoph Dietz
Postfach 10 21 04 
D-52021 Aachen, Germany
Tel.: 0049 - 241 - 70 13 12 14
Fax: 0049 - 241 - 70 13 12 33
christoph.dietz at cameco.org 

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